Victorian Senate overview

Welcome to the belated second installment in our six-part series looking at the state Senate contests, today’s subject being Victoria. As a service to bewildered Victorian voters, what follows is a guide to how your preferences will trickle down to the serious contenders (very generous interpretation here) if you vote above the line. This irons out the meaningless subtleties within the various party tickets and focuses on where the preferences will land where they matter. The DLP and Christian Democrats for example have placed most Coalition candidates ahead of most Labor candidates, but what matters is that Labor’s Jacinta Collins is ahead of Liberal Judith Troeth as these two will be fighting it out for one of the last two places. Also, Labor have submitted a complicated ticket that appears designed to obscure the fact that Family First have done astonishingly well out of them.

Coalition: DLP; Christian Democratic; Family First; Liberals for Forests; Democrats; Greens; Labor; Socialist Alliance; One Nation.

Labor: Liberals for Forests; Family First; DLP; Christian Democratic; Greens; Democrats; Socialist Alliance; Liberal; One Nation.

Greens: Socialist Alliance; Democrats; Labor; DLP; Liberals for Forests; Liberal; Family First; Christian Democratic; One Nation.

Democrats: Family First; Liberals for Forests; Greens; half-Liberal, half-Labor; Socialist Alliance; DLP; Christian Democratic; One Nation.

Family First: Christian Democratic; DLP; Liberals for Forests; Labor; Democrats; Liberal; One Nation; Socialist Alliance; Greens.

One Nation: Christian Democratic; Family First; Liberals for Forests; Liberal; DLP; Labor; Democrats; Socialist Alliance; Greens.

DLP: Family First; Christian Democratic; Labor; Liberal; Liberals for Forests; One Nation; Greens; Democrats; Socialist Alliance.

Liberals for Forests: Family First; DLP; Democrats; Labor; Liberal; Greens; Christian Democratic; One Nation; Socialist Alliance.

Christian Democratic: Family First; DLP; Labor; Liberal; Liberals for Forests; One Nation; Labor; Socialist Alliance; Democrats; Greens.

Socialist Alliance: Greens; Labor; Democrats; Liberals for Forests; Liberal; DLP; Family First; CDP; One Nation.

After Labor and the Coalition win their inevitable two seats, there will most likely be a tight contest between Liberal, Labor and Greens candidates for the final two positions along with either Family First or the Democrats. In the contest between the latter two, the group tickets suggest Family First will finish ahead and then absorb Democrats preferences and not the other way round.

Beyond that, the deck is stacked in favour of Labor and Family First and against the Liberals and the Greens. If either of the latter two are to win one of the last two seats up for grabs, they will have to do so with something very close to a full quota on the primary vote – 43 per cent for a third Liberal seat, or 14.3 per cent for the Greens’ David Risstrom. The usual successful scenario for the Greens involves their candidate overtaking the Democrats and then absorbing their preferences, allowing them to defeat the third place-holder on Labor’s ticket. But this time the Democrats are preferencing Family First, as are both the major parties. If Risstrom needs preferences to achieve a quota he can only get them from Labor and the Democrats, and then only if Family First are eliminated before him. The Coalition was able to win in 2001 with a modest 39.5 per cent of the primary vote in 2001 with the help of preferences from One Nation (who polled 2.4 per cent) and the DLP (2.2 per cent). Since neither can be relied upon this time, they will struggle to retain the third seat.

Family First’s challenge is to finish on top of the minor party pile, and then overtake either major party and absorb their surplus over the second quota. If they succeed, they will most likely to do at the expense of the Coalition leaving Labor and the Greens competing for the other seat. If they fall short, a full complement of preferences from the "Christian coalition" will then flow on to Jacinta Collins and deliver her a third Labor seat, with the other place going to either Liberal or the Greens.

The Poll Bludger made a special effort to think this through by himself without drawing upon the efforts of other commentators. With that effort out of the way, he now calls your attention to what others think. Malcolm Mackerras: "In Victoria, my assessment is that the 1998 result will be repeated exactly. In 1998, each of the Labor and Coalition tickets secured three places". Charles Richardson at Crikey (no link): a number of scenarios are "possible", "but they point to the most probably winners being 2 Labor, 1 Liberal, 1 National Party, 1 Green and 1 Family First". A more equivocal assessment is offered by Antony Green.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.